The one dream that all dog lovers share is the hope that dogs could live longer lives. Now scientists are trying to make that dream come true. The National Institute on Aging is conducting a $23 million study on aging in canines called The Dog Aging Project. As the largest study of its kind, it will take 5 years and include 10,000 dogs.
The Dog Aging Project is a joint effort of 16 different veterinary schools, medical schools, and research facilities, including North Carolina State's College of Veterinary Medicine. Currently, they are looking for dog volunteers to join in the study. Dogs of all ages and sizes are welcome and can be nominated at the Dog Aging Project.
Doggy participants will live at home with their families. Owners will be expected to share vet records, DNA samples, gut microbes, undergo an annual vet visit, complete on-line surveys, track information on food and walks, and possibly be required to go to the vet for additional tests.
Of the volunteers, 500 dogs will be given a medication called rapamycin, which is taken by human kidney transplant patients. Large dogs weighing over 40 pounds are better candidates for the pill since they age faster than smaller dogs. According to Matt Kaeberlein of the University of Washington, “a small safety study in dogs found no dangerous side effects.”
Researchers expect that the study will reveal how they can help dogs live longer. However, they also hope it will help them discover how to improve the health and longevity in humans, too. Since humans and dogs live in the same environment and share similar aging related diseases, they believe they can learn more about dementia, heart disease, and cancer.
Rather than treat disease, researchers are optimistic that they will learn how to increase the quality of life for dogs and humans before disease develops. “What we learn will potentially be good for dogs and has great potential to translate to human health,” said project co-director Daniel Promislow of the University of Washington School of Medicine.
If you think you’d like to volunteer your dog, please visit the Dog Aging Project website. Otherwise, we’ll be following the study here. Please share this amazing story with your family and friends.